Fred, Frank, Tom, and Ted sit at their usual place at the counter of the Hullahoo Bar for their Friday night drinks with friends and not-so friends. The subject is TV panels.
‘You ever notice how the female panelists always sit cross-legged?” Fred initiates.
“Yeah,” Frank responds. “You wonder how they avoid getting cramps. I’d like to see what they do with their legs during the commercials.”
“I bet some physical therapist comes by to rub their calves,” Tom says.
“You ask yourself why they’re always sitting cross-legged in unison,” Ted says. “Are they hiding something?”
“You ever noticed how the male panelists sit?” throws in Cindy. “Always wide-legged.”
“Oh, they do,” Melissa croons. “With their hands folded at the groin. I wonder if they’re hiding something, too.”
“And some are thumbing their fingers at the same time while they’re pontificating.” Mary scoffs.
“Gross,” Cindy judges. “Why don’t they sit at tables so we don’t have to watch that exhibitionism?”
“It’s because male viewers like to see nice legs,” Mary retorts. “They’re not interested in what they’re saying.”
“Sure,” Tom interjects. “Some females wear their skirts so short that you see way up their upper thighs instead of hiding them.”
“I’m all for sitting at tables,” Melissa says. “Not all female panelists have nice legs. That’s discrimination.”
“Then the viewers will focus on too much facial makeup,” Frank says, “Ever noticed those dark lines under and above their eyes to hide wrinkles or a hangover?”
“Ever noticed those guys with black colored hair and grey beards?” Cindy shoots back.
“Why shouldn’t males have the right to paint their hair to look younger?” Fred asks. “Women paint their hair for that reason all the time.”
“We do because if we don’t you guys go look for younger blondies,” Mary says. “It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Painting our hair works for us.”
“Painting your hair while leaving your beard or mustache greying is preposterous,” Cindy insists. “It shows you’re having your mid-life crisis.”
“So table or no table doesn’t make a difference,” Fred concludes. “That’s a level playing field.”
“Oh, and then you have those false teeth,” Melissa deposits. “Amazing how different those guys look with their instasmiles. They can’t stop laughing broadly to show off how much they paid for it, regardless of the sordid issues they’re harping on.”
“That brings me to the facelifts,” Ted says. “Nancy Pelosi’s multiple facelifts. Or Kerry’s endless botox looks. And those of other celebrities. Panels feel forced to ape the anti-aging trends. It’s absurd.”
“Every woman has the right not to look her age,” Melissa says. “It’s all your males’ fault. You men go astray as soon as we get wrinkles.”
“Hear, hear,” Fred says. “I repeat there’s no difference between tabled panels and legged panels. That was what we were arguing about.”
“I suggest that all panelists, females and males, wear pants,” Cindy offers. “That solves the issue.”
“Right,” Frank pummels. “So they all can sit wide-legged.”
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It’s Friday night and Fred, Frank, Tom, and Ted are drinking beer with their regular friends at the Hullahoo bar, talking about the issues of the Me Too Movement. Cindy sitting across from Frank yells, “Me 2 is taking over boys. It’s role reversal. You better take notice.”
“Scary, Cindy, I did,” Frank says. “I stopped dating for fear of being broadsided or perhaps even castrated.”
“Right,” Ted added. “Broads do that nowadays. What are we going to do about love?”
“You guys are all babes in the woods,” Marlene scoffs. “Me 2 wants real men that do not assault or belittle women like calling us broads.”
“Oh yeah?” howls Frank. “You mean those real men with their naked torsos trunked on romance novels?”
“All written by women, including erotica,” Ted adds. “The three Ls: Love, lust, and lasciviousness. Are they also members of the Me 2 movement?”
“You’re hallucinating,” Marlene’s friend Melissa says. “Me 2 women have their own sense of self-esteem, even if they write erotica.”
“Ha, ha,” laughs Fred. “If I write an erotica novel, I’ll be called a pervert and if you do it, it’s called art. Call that a double standard.”
“When I walk the corridors in my office,” Ted says, “I look straight ahead now and say nothing anymore to the girls passing for fear of being accused of sexual harassment.”
“I won’t open the door for any woman anymore either,” Tom says. “For fear of being told off that she can do that herself. And when I am in the elevator, I won’t even try to let the woman exit first. I rather travel up or down to the next floor. For fear of being told that I’m making inappropriate advances.”
“Me 2 is a serious movement,” Cindy buts in. “You guys shouldn’t make fun of it. It responds to a longtime abuse of women in the workplace or domestic violence, and nobody did a damn thing about it. Thanks to the Me 2 Movement they do now.”
“We’re not denying that, Cindy,” Fred argues. “To the contrary, we agree and I personally am glad that this screwy matter has been put in the limelight. But Me 2 has thrown a wrench into the courting ritual. It’s like lighting a firecracker on the Notre Dame square with all this social media hype. Ever seen male pigeons pursuing female pigeons? Aren’t you guys denying nature’s procreative role?”
“Humans are rational people, animals are not,” Melissa says, raising her voice. “Men have been denying female rights for far too long.”
“You say,” Frank exclaims. “What about those female empresses that sent their lovers to the gallows?”
“Kathryn Dunoova, that French movie star, also said Me 2 had gone too far,” Tom says. “You’re throwing your loverboy away with the bathwater.”
“It’s Catherine Deneuve, you butthead,” called out Emily from the other side of the counter. She pretended she could speak French. “She later apologized for critiquing Me 2.”
“Okay,” Tom responds. “Maybe she did. But she and some ninety-nine other famous French women said the usual male courting rituals shouldn’t be called sexual harassment, and that’s what’s happening here in the US. It’s killing our romance. I guess French women are different from their American species. I’ll be moving to Paris.”
“I was going to propose tomorrow at the top of the Empire building,” Ted announces. “But for fear of being laughed at I may just as well throw myself over the railing.”
“Why should you guys have the exclusive right to propose?” Emily wonders. “Why can’t I propose? Waiting for someone nice to propose is very frustrating for women.”
“I’m sure that most of us men were already proposed to in bed by our girlfriends after our cummy, whispering let’s get married,” Frank says. “Most of us would be too embarrassed to say ‘no.’ So Emily, get your act together.”
“Would you like me to try?” Emily asks, her eyes full of seduction.
“Are you proposing?” Frank asks, among loud laughter.
Emily comes around, pushing his friend Fred off his seat and sits next to Frank. “Yes, I am,” she says. “Pay me a drink to seal it.”
The Hullahoo friends raise their glasses, cheering, “Long live Me 2!”
ENCHANTING THE SWAN – REPRINT BY SUN HILL BOOKS.
” A very enjoyable read. Could make a great movie” – Neal Cary.
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” A heartbreaking love story” – Vera Wilson
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The Hullahoo Bar is crammed with patrons at the counter. Ted, Frank and their regular raucous friends crowd around the half-circle, arguing testily.
“Yes,” Ted says. “I am writing a new book titled ‘Killing Deep Throat’. I’m fed up with this DC bureaucracy boiling up all this crap. I’m going to drain that swamp with the successful Killing Libido Pill and write how we did it.”
“You mean if you suck out all the libido from the system you actually will stop it from regurgitating hatred, obstruction, resistance and fake news?” Frank roared, laughing.
“Exactly,” Ted confirms. “You saw the results of my KLP book: the anti-viagra virus. Much better than that stuff about aging young. Tell me, you guys, don’t you feel relieved after taking the KLP, that you don’t have that urge anymore to go after women ?”
“I give you that,” Bert says. “But how do you apply that to killing ‘Deep Throat’?”
“I have researched it in-depth,” Ted explains. “Deep-throat people are the ones that constitute the megacenter of the swamp. They are all sexually frustrated by ED, inability to perform in bed or having to fake it, and jealous of men that are successful with women or women successful with men. Just look at the mainstream media anchors, always a man and a woman, each competing for being the most obnoxious gofer on the screen. If the guy takes the KLP, he instantly loses his drive to be more obnoxious than the female anchor.”
“But then you’d be left with those pesky females and nothing would change,” Bert says.
“The female anchor will lose her nerve because she’d feel she is no longer pursued. That frustrates her natural instincts. Look at our female friends here, how annoyed and inoperative they are because they get no free beers or Martinis anymore. True, Angie?”
“Don’t put me on the spot, Ted KLP,” Angie retorts. “All that gallantry you guys were displaying was only with one purpose in mind and that’s bedding me or her.”
“How would you impose that KLP on anchors?” Henry of The Washington Post asks.
“By mixing it in their coffee machines,” Ted says. “We have an army of paid KLP operators that serve these studios, government and newspaper offices. You don’t drink coffee? No problem, they mix it in the watercoolers. Just watch your offices at the Post, Henry. Don’t feel that horny anymore? You may already have been swallowing KLP.”
“And who pays for that?” Cindy asks, always on the money.
“The National Health Institute,” Ted says. “They have a stake in the matter because the growing political divide in the US is ruining the country’s national health and sharply increasing Medicaid and Medicare costs for psychiatrical care and domestic disputes. We’re expanding into the FBI, the Justice Department, even the Defense Department and the catacombs of the White House. You will soon hear that that FBI lover couple will disband because that stork guy has been klpeed and the whole case will come tumbling down.”
“This is pure subversion of democracy,” Henry says. “I’ll expose you and your group as underminers of the Me 2 movement, the new platform of the Democrat party.”
“What nonsense,” Ted balks. “You mean I undercut Me 2 if I KLpee the guys they’re fighting, the Weismans, Roses, Lauers and Cosbys? You mean that to remain relevant M2 needs these guys back into the limelight somewhere so that they can continue barking at them?”
“Precisely,” Henry says. “Your group must emanate from the right that opposes sinful movements. Me 2 welcomes freedom.”
“What has that got to do with Killing Deep Throat, Ted?” asks Frank.
“I’m positive that all this political wrangling is sex-related,” Ted says. “Why is the special prosecutor so interested in that playboy girl instead of that silly Russian collusion? I’m sure that if we klpee him he and his case would disintegrate.”
Henry slammed his fist on the counter. “I oppose that because it would destroy all the media fun.”
“You see?” Alicia yelps across the counter. “You perverts only like to write about porn to sell your paper and you don’t care a fig about making America great again.”
“Hah!” Henry yells back. “We write it because you want to read it, and if we wrote only about the low unemployment rate you wouldn’t buy the paper.”
Ted scoffs. “Watch your Keurig coffeemaker, Henry. Soon you’ll be only interested in writing about the unemployment rate.”
Ted and Frank sit at the counter of their regular Hullahoo bar for their weekly chat, and sitting not far from them we are overhearing their babble. It’s a busy night with many patrons sharing their corner.
“Do you have skeletons in your closet?” asks Ted, referring to a politician whose election failed after sex revelations surfaced in the media.
“Oh man!” Frank responds with a sigh. “I wouldn’t dare open it for fear they’d all tumble out with a rattling cabal. And you?”
“Mine are in the garden shed,” Ted confesses. “Too many to count. At night they haunt me, making me scream, yelling ‘why was I so stupid!’ Then Ann asks, ‘Are you all right?’ What am I supposed to say? If I told her, she’d probably run away.”
“But why do only men have skeletons in their closets?” Bert wonders, sitting next to Ted. “Women are never accused of hiding them.”
“Women use closets to store clothes, Bert,” Frank says. “You of all people who live with one should know. There ain’t any room for skeletons.”
“It’s because you guys are the perverts,” joins in Alicia, sitting next to Frank. “It’s us the weaker sex that always gets molested.”
“I know a few of you who collaborated quite eagerly in the molestation,” Frank shoots back.
“But you must’ve started it,” Alicia says. “Passing by in the office and glimpsing invitingly? Asking to have a coffee together, then lunch and then dinner, and then the nightclub with dancing cheek to cheek and more? And then the skeleton gets baked.”
“You could’ve said ‘No’ but instead you went along,” Frank says, grimacing. “Our skeletons are shared with your permissive weaker sex, but it’s always us who get burned.”
“I didn’t speak of myself, just the experiences of my girlfriends,” Alicia says, looking away.
“So you don’t have skeletons, only your girlfriends do?” asks Ted, pressing her. “Your type’s always the holy Mary.”
“They’re all hypocrites,” Bert shouted, gulping his beer. “Them so-called journalists who uncover these skeletons have tons of them in their own closets. He who’s without sin should cast the first stone. Remember Bible class?”
“If you remember, Alicia, the adulterer in that story was a woman.” Frank sneers.
“That was then and this is now,” Cathy buts in, sitting next to Bert. “Sad enough it took two thousand years for the roles to turn around.”
“But a man still needs a woman to make a skeleton,” Bert argues. “So you guys must have skeletons, too. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Not so, Mister Bert!” Cathy hollers. “You heard about that scumball of a sports coach that molested all those trusting young gymnasts against their will?”
“And that ugly guy in Hollywood who forced himself on actresses if they wanted a job?” Alicia adds.
“And what about that lewd role model of all husbands and fathers, Bill Cosby?” yells Cindy from the far end of Ted’s.
Sudden silence reigns at the counter. All males pull shameful faces feeling they truly belong to a bunch of public perverts. In an effort to turn the conversation back to the usual uplifting clatter, Ted asks Frank, “Can you share any skeleton you’re hiding?”
Frank’s face clears up. “So glad you asked. There’s one I want to get rid of. I took it out from the shed at Halloween but forgot it had an eye-operated talker. Each time trick-or-treat kids passed by, it squeaked ‘Come in and meet Frank Womanizer.’ The whole neighborhood came out, especially moms, who told their daughters to stay away from me! Colleagues gave it to me as an office award. I became the neighborhood villain. It ruined my chances of running for State Office.’
“You see,” Alicia says. “You ain’t any better than the rest of them. You better pay me a drink to make good.”
“Bert, any skeletons you want to share?” Frank asks, ignoring Alicia’s demand because he’d taken his killing libido pill.
Bert shifts on his stool, uncomfortable he’s put on the spot. “Mine are only financial. I claim the fifth.”
“Ted, would you volunteer?” Frank asks.
“The most embarrassing thing that got me fired. I had a bad dinner the night before and went with awful tummy cramps to the office. I was asked to see the boss and as he hadn’t returned yet from a meeting had to wait for him in his office when it flew out. I didn’t know it would be that bad. I almost fainted myself. I thought of running away but he suddenly came in, got furious, threw all the windows open, and shouted me out. It took me two years before I got hired somewhere else as everybody kept gossiping about it.”
Laughter all around. “But that’s not a skeleton that interests the media,” Henry says, sitting next to Alicia. He’s from The Washington Post, so he knows. “It must be juicy, not stinky.”
“Come on, Henry,” Bert says. “Why are male skeletons always female? Because you guys make it so? Skeletons do not wear their sex, so how can you see what’s what? Dirt diggers you are!”
“Hey, Bert, I must write to earn my bread and butter, man! You do it with financial crookery. I’ll find out and leak it to the Special Prosecutor.”
“Sure,” Bert retorts. “From sources at a bar.”
Then a busty skeleton enters the bar door and rattles to the counter. “Hi, I’m Stormy Waters and am for hire.”
“Can I buy you a drink?” Henry asks.
Sitting cramped in my window seat, I wondered why the moon had this mocking smile on his face. My heliphone didn’t ring. Maybe because of secret regulations between Heaven and air traffic control? I still didn’t know the whereabouts of Anita’s husband’s prison. Stumbling through customs on arrival at dawn, a voice told me that the cab driver would know. “Oslo fengsel,” he confirmed. After going through town, he turned into a long driveway lined by leafless trees and snow-covered grounds, ending at a red-stone somber building. “You wait,” I said and went in. The guards watched me, quizzically. I was dressed as a priest, my faith-inspiring white collar shining trustingly behind the white scarf around my neck. I didn’t speak a word of Norwegian but had many times mumbled Anita’s husband’s name, Wilhelm Lassen, that bloody Viking who’d trounced me with Anita.
I sat in the bare visiting room when Wilhelm Lassen entered, took the only other seat, his face one question mark. I gazed at his hands. As I’d suspected, he didn’t wear rings in prison. I hoped he spoke a bit of English.
“My name’s Father John,” I said. “I’m bringing you a final word from Anita.”
The man’s face grew grey, his lips tightened, his eyes squinted. “Anita is dead,” he said with a rolling accent. “I did not do nothing. She suffered shortage of breath. Who are you?”
“Her confessor when she lived with you in Geneva. She left this small package to hand you in case she’d die before you.” I pulled a blue jewelry box from my pocket and handed it to him. In it was a golden ring I’d dipped with a tweezer into a small base with liquid cyanide in the airplane toilet a short while before landing. A friend at a chemical factory had given me the deadly stuff, believing I’d use it to kill persistent mice in my basement. If Wilhelm would slide the ring on his finger, his skin would absorb the cyanide and death would follow soon.
Wilhelm opened the box and stared at it. “My wedding ring?” he asked. “I thought I’d lost it. Rar,” (‘strange’) he muttered. Then he shifted it onto his ring finger, looking sad.
The guard came in and warned me my time was up. I stood, said farewell to Wilhelm, and left as fast as I could. The cab driver took me rapidly to the airport, and I grabbed the first flight out to Amsterdam to erase my footsteps, hopefully having left pandemonium at the Oslo fensel. In Amsterdam, I got the last seat in a crowded United flight to Washington, mission accomplished, I reckoned.
Back home at night, the heliphone rang. It was Anita.
“Thank you, Johnnyboy. He’s nicely burning in Hell, screaming his lungs out.”
“But won’t I be punished?”
“No, you’ll be rewarded in Heaven when you get here in a while. Can’t wait.” Her heavenly voice drifted away.
“Crime pays in the afterlife,” I whispered and fell asleep, uncomfortable about Anita’s eagerness. Wilhelm’s death was reported as a suicide.